25 Most Powerful People on the Corridor
They have forged some of the most important reforms in government. Launched global businesses with a few dollars in the bank or from the trunk of their car. Built entire communities that others said could not be built.
They are recreating what the hurricanes tore down, cultivating friendships among old enemies, turning public education upside down, generating technology that no one else has and recruiting new jobs and newcomers.
They are industry leaders. Business people. Public servants. And community activists.
They are the 25 most powerful people on the 10/12 corridor.
And how do we know that? You told us so. The men and women profiled in these pages were among more than 100 nominees from 10/12 readers chosen by a panel of 16 judges who are community leaders in their own right. Their selections were made on one simple criterion: The corridor’s most powerful are those who have demonstrated that they have what it takes to make things happen— not just in their own communities, but in the linear city in which we live known as the corridor.
No list of the most powerful would be ?complete without the founder, chairman and CEO of one of Louisiana’s four Fortune 500 firms, Shaw Group’s Jim Bernhard.
Last year, the corridor breathed a ?collective sigh of relief when the company made a long-term commitment to remain in Baton Rouge and signed on for a joint venture with Westinghouse Electric build a $100 million fabrication and assembly plant in Lake Charles that will create 2,900 new jobs.
The big question now is where his on-again, off-again flirtation with politics will take him. He served briefly as head of Louisiana’s Democratic Party and was on former Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s transition team. He pulled together a coalition of business leaders to support Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden. He toyed with running for governor in 2007 and the U.S. Senate in 2008. Now he’s rumored to be gearing up for a run to unseat U.S. Senator David Vitter.
Believe it or not, Pat Brister got her start in public life in the PTA.
Three years ago, she represented the United States as an ambassador to the United Nations, where she served on a Commission on the Status of Women.
In between, she served as the first chairwoman of the Republican Party of Louisiana for a dozen years, chaired the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign in Louisiana for four years and was elected to two terms on the St. Tammany Parish Council.
These days, she’s heading up the Northshore Business Council, but is rumored to be the one to beat for St. Tammany parish presidency in 2011.
“One thing absolutely leads to another,” she says. “It literally started in the PTA and from there just kind of grew. People who are interested in community service have plenty of areas to choose from.”
As president of Columbus Properties, Joseph Canizaro is behind some of the most recognized developments on the corridor, including Canal Place, Texaco Center and the former Galleria in Metairie. He’s chairman of the board of First Bank and Trust as well as First Trust Corp., and his venture capital ?company Corporate Capital operates 9,000 ATMs throughout the country. He’s also a trustee and former chairman of the Urban Land Institute. He was about finished with his new mansion west of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. Since then, his attention has been focused not on rebuilding his own digs, but on restoring the entire city as chair of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission’s Urban Planning Committee.
But the real-estate and banking mogul with close ties to former President George W. Bush isn’t the most popular of advocates. By most accounts, he dominated the creation of a final report that calls for shrinking New Orleans’ “footprint,” or geographic area, in part by turning some of the city’s most-damaged and lowest-lying areas into green space. One city hall protester vowed to “sit in my front door with my shotgun”, another confided, “Joe Canizaro, I don’t know you, but I hate you.”
More than a decade ago, people thought Robert Daigle and his partner in design, architect Steven Oubre, were crazy when they talked of building a traditional village of homes, townhouses, condos, apartments, restaurants, shops and offices—all within walking distance of one another on 320 acres in Lafayette.
Homeowners on nearby Steiner Road fiercely fought it, fearing the development would lower their property values. Construction required more than 100 variances to existing zoning regulations.
But River Ranch planted the seed for New Urbanism along the corridor. It sparked and is serving as the model for dozens of traditional neighborhood developments planned or under construction from Lake Charles to the Northshore. They themselves are hard at work on more TNDs along the corridor, including Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville and Americana in Zachary.
Since John Davies came to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in 1988, its assets have grown from $3 million to $568 million. But for Davies, it hasn’t just been about the money. Under his leadership, the foundation has played the role of activist along the corridor—most notably spending thousands of dollars to hire GSD&M’s Idea City to develop a national branding campaign, and turning to former rivals like New Orleans to build a coalition of support for it. BRAF has also helped get ?community foundations in Southwest Louisiana and the Northshore off the ground. Within the Capital City, Davies wields enormous power. There, the foundation is involved in nearly every aspect of public life, generating a master plan for the city with a New Urbanism bent, giving nod to the mayor’s proposed bond issue and building its own downtown brownstones and apartments.
This three-term parish president is tasked with steering Louisiana’s fastest growing parish in nearly three decades. No wonder he thought he needed a fourth term to get everything done [he eventually decided against it].
The largely rural St. Tammany has come of age during his term—switching from a police jury to a council form of governance and facing urban issues like traffic, animal control and infrastructure. Retail and offices complexes are now coming their way. Davis has dealt with the growth head on, pushing impact fees, buying up land to preserve it for parks and expanding the Tammany Trace, building a new emergency operations center. He still hopes to develop an entertainment district in Slidell, although he dropped plans for a riverboat after it proved controversial and unfeasible. “I live here and I want to make it better,” he says. “It really isn’t any more complicated than that.”
Along the corridor and beyond, this power couple packs a one-two punch. He’s a state senator serving on the finance and education committees; she’s a past chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
He’s chairman/CEO of DonahueFavret Contractors Holding Company—one of the Gulf South’s largest and most respected construction firms; she’s president.
He has chaired the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and co-founded the Business Congress of Louisiana; she’s on the boards of Greater New Orleans Inc. and St. Tammany Parish Economic Development Foundation.
He’s emerged as a political leader, bringing together legislative delegations from the Northshore to form a caucus on issues of mutual interest that could spread to Baton Rouge and other areas of the corridor. She is a visible and vocal national advocate of small-business issues, targeting frivolous litigation and government regulations.
“They each make things happen, each get results, are collaborative and full of integrity,” says St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Lacey Toledano. “They are tireless, grounded, faithful individuals who just happen to be married to each other. If only we could clone them.”
Historically Democratic-leaning Lafayette voters propelled longtime pet shop owner and Republican Joey Durel into the city-parish president’s office four years ago because they liked his pledge to run government as a business.
Four years later, he walked back in office for another term, unopposed and enjoying strong bipartisan support. His infamous No Party Party fundraiser in 2006 was hosted by the likes of Republicans Bobby Jindal, David Vitter, Charles Boustany, Mike Michot and C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates CEO Bill Fenstermaker, as well as high-profile Democrats Glenn Armentor, Mike Skinner and Rickey Hardy.
In his first term, he went to the mat for the right to compete with corporate telecom giants Cox Communications and BellSouth, and today, the parish government is offering fiber to the home. His second term appears devoted to addressing infrastructure needs, in part as chairman of Jindal’s Interstate 49 South Feasibility and Funding Task Force.
Since he took office, Lafayette has enjoyed a number of national accolades, like moving up to No. 14 on Milken Institute’s list of Best Performing Cities, one of Southern Business and Development’s Top 10 Cities for the Creative Class, and Inc.com’s 10th Best Mid-Sized City for Doing Business.
Don’t look for Ron Forman on any ballots anytime soon. The director of the Audubon Institute, who ran against New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in 2006, insists he’s just too busy.
He chairs the Superdome Commission and just finished a year as chair of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. He’s also emerging as a player along the corridor. His work revitalizing the Audubon Zoo and adding the Aquarium of the Americas, the Entergy IMAX Theatre and the Insectarium have made New Orleans a family-friendly town, and now he’s hoping to spread that formula to 10/12.
He’s invested in getting the proposed Alive! project up and running in Baton Rouge, and he’s in talks with St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis about bringing an ?educational museum, animal habitat and research facilities to a proposed entertainment district in Slidell along the lakefront.
Gregg Gothreaux has been the face of Lafayette economic development for more than a decade—and a major proponent of fostering the high-tech industry along the corridor. The Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise is perhaps the best tribute to what he does: He facilitated the process that came up with the concept for the three-dimensional visualization and high-performance/high-speed computing network for private industry, brought the people together to build the plan, got support for funding and offered administrative support to build it. Now it’s a worldwide draw. “He’s the guy people go to—business people, government, non-profit,” says LITE CEO Henry Florsheim. “And not just in Lafayette. People from all over the state call on Gregg when they need help.”
Michael Hecht has been the president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc.—the regional economic development entity—for less than a year, and already, he’s making a big impression. For one thing, he’s talking to Baton Rouge. The former Louisiana Economic Development wonk has changed the ?organization from top to bottom, and is said to be focusing on relationships, relevance and results. Add to that regionalism. Despite the corridor initiative’s original focus on all things not New Orleans, Hecht is helping others to see the value of the effort. Says Chief of Staff Austin Marks: “Michael’s work in the ten parishes and the larger region—including Baton Rouge and South Louisiana—has been a breath of fresh air for all our stakeholders.”
Council for a Better Louisiana. Greater New Orleans Inc. Committee for a Better New Orleans. Committee of 100. The Idea Village. World Trade Center of New Orleans. Xavier University of Louisiana President’s Council. Teach for America. New Orleans Arts Council. New Orleans Jazz Council. That’s just a handful of the entities for which Bill Hines currently serves as chairman or a member of the board of directors.
It’s a wonder he also finds time for his mission to transform one the most prominent law firms on the corridor into a national powerhouse. Yet under his leadership in the past year alone, the firm has acquired other firms in Alabama and Louisiana, and opened an office in Phoenix. It is now the 163rd largest in the United States.
Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco has called him “one of the leading economic development catalysts in this state” and he is credited with keeping Northrop Grumman from leaving Louisiana, creating GNO Inc. and recruiting the Hornets.
In October, Baton Rouge voters overwhelmingly reelected him – he carried every precinct in the parish for the first time in history. He has worked to revitalize the city’s downtown – creating an arts and entertainment district and marketing Baton Rouge to the film and video industry. His Green Light Plan completed two projects and started seven others in 2008. The man can also build a coalition. He’s built an alliance with parish presidents along the corridor in Livingston, Ascension, Iberville and West Baton Rouge to find support for the Baton Rouge Loop. His $989 million bond issue that could boost Baton Rouge’s tourism draw along the corridor failed by just over 3,000 votes, but don’t count the plan out just yet.
The governor was swept into office with an unprecedented popularity and had a strong start right out of the gate with ethics reform. Now he faces the challenge of maintaining that momentum as his administration slashes and burns funding the likes of higher education and the arts to cope with a budget crisis. Add to that demand for infrastructure remains particularly acute along the corridor. Will he run in 2012? The real question along 10/12 is this: “How will he govern in 2009?”
Wherever business has an interest has an interest, there, too, is Louisiana Association of Business & Industry President Dan Juneau.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue once called Juneau “a rock to Louisiana’s small business community.”
But even former Gov. Kathleen Blanco—?often at odds with him—credited Juneau when she eliminated the corporate franchise tax on debt and the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment and proclaimed Louisiana was becoming a more business-friendly state. “Dan is an effective and dogged advocate for Louisiana business,” she said at the time, “and this day is his day, too.”
Juneau has spent more than a quarter of a century fighting for reforms to improve Louisiana’s business climate and strengthen its economy.
Having survived two re-elections, Mary Landrieu now has emerged as Louisiana’s senior senator—and at a time when Democrats are running the show. She also sits on the most powerful panel on Capitol Hill—the Senate Appropriations Committee—tand chairs the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. She occasionally makes the worst-of lists [Taxpayers for Common Sense ranked her third for pork-barrel projects; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics named her among the Top 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress], but then again, we’ve come to expect that in our politicians.
St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce CEO Lacey Toledano muses that Marty Mayer is “a busy and successful man who does not need to be involved but chooses to be at a high level. He is taking our region where it needs to go—to the top of lists we were formerly at the bottom of.”
And just how does he manage to accomplish that? “He gets what collaboration can do,” she says, “and is making what are often intangible yet invaluable results happen right now when they are needed more than ever.”
Indeed, Mayer has been instrumental in working to enhance the corridor—both through industry and civic involvement. He and his firm are the driving force behind a number of major developments along 10/12, including the massive renovation of Hammond Square.
But even more groundbreaking is his newfound role as the first Northshore chairman of Greater New Orleans Inc. His sole objective for the coming year is to enable to previously Orleans-focused organization “to be the catalyst for building bridges together, bringing together various groups, organizations and individuals who share a common vision and helping to lead such groups toward mutually shared goals,” Mayer says. “We have already seen some tangible results and I look forward to working with the organization and the Board to building a prosperous future together for our region.”
As president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Stephen Moret was considered a wunderkind of economic development. But the vote is still out on his performance as secretary of Louisiana Economic Development—particularly given his controversial $320,000 government salary. The Harvard Business School graduate turned BRAC into a national-caliber, regional economic development organization and tripled its revenues.
Since moving to LED, he’s claimed numerous successes up and down the corridor, among them luring one of architects of the Georgia Quick Start workforce readiness project, attracting corporate headquarters for Albemarle and Bercen Inc., convincing Shaw to remain in Baton Rouge and construct with Westinghouse a module fabrication and assembly factory in Lake Charles, and snagging Electronic Arts’ global testing center. His challenge now is continuing that momentum as the national economy continues to stall.
He would seem an unlikely advocate for public education. He attended private schools, as did his three children. But in 1984, Paul Pastorek—then an Adams & Reese corporate attorney newly tasked with the firm’s partners-in-education program—got a glimpse inside Andrew J. Bell Junior High School in New Orleans. Shortly thereafter, he emerged as an advocate for reform, first in New Orleans, and then statewide. He is both loved and loathed as superintendent of schools, but he is well aware that he holds the future of thousands of schoolchildren in his hands. He didn’t blink when taking over 10 of Louisiana’s failing schools this spring. This legislative session, he takes on the school boards, and in a year when money is scarce, his own board could very well take on his $355,611 salary.
The Reillys ubiquitous billboards are up and down the corridor, to be sure, but so is their influence in public life.
Lamar Advertising Company Chief Executive Officer Kevin Reilly Jr. has taken Louisiana’s only NASDAQ 100 firm into a new phase of growth and diversification, including its expansion into the interstate logo business and its recent introduction of digital billboards. But he’s also a director of the Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, the Louisiana Technology Park, and the World War II Museum.
Sean Reilly is chief operating officer and president of Lamar’s Outdoor Division. He’s been more involved in public life than Kevin, having done a stint in the Louisiana Legislature from 1988 to 1996. More recently, the Harvard Law School graduate has played a critical role in crafting Louisiana’s long-term recovery response to the two hurricane disasters, Katrina and Rita, on the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
Noted New Urbanist planner Andrčs Duany has worked with government officials all over the country. But Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach, he insists, “is one of the most effective people I have ever worked with. The man likes bold schemes; he brings people along politically; he is fantastically straightforward and trustworthy.”
Says Stine Lumber Co. President Dennis Stine: “Randy makes government run on time. He takes care of business so business people can do their jobs.”
Heady praise for the three-termer. But deserved.
Out of disaster, Roach seized opportunity. He is rebuilding the post-Rita city into a pedestrian friendly downtown with a retail/residential mix, parks and waterfront activities. But Roach is also a consummate regionalist. He is just as frequently spotted outside Lake Charles—in Lafayette to meet with business leaders; in Baton Rouge to talk about hooking up to mass transit from Texas; in New Orleans to foster tourism.
“Our greatest challenge in Louisiana is our parochialism,” he says. “You hear parents all the time say they will do anything for their children. Well, will they put aside their parochial feelings and unite together to keep economic opportunities in Louisiana?”
There were grumblings of cronyism when Joe Savoie took over the helm of the corridor’s second-largest campus, the University of Louisiana Lafayette. After all, he earned two degrees there, and held several administrative positions on campus—including vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the Alumni Association—before going on in 1996 to serve as commissioner of higher education at the Louisiana Board of Regents. There, he played a key role in reform initiatives to restructure higher education governance and create the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. He will certainly have the chance to prove himself at one of the most critical points in UL Lafayette’s history. Campuses all along the corridor are being forced to swallow massive multi-million-dollar cuts, thanks to a state budget crisis. UL System trustee Paul Aucoin insists Savoie has “outstanding credentials that would be the envy of any other state.”
Power, Dennis Stine posits, is defined by two things: knowledge and influence. “In other words,” he explains, “you use your knowledge to embolden others onto a path that you feel strongly about.”
His own path of public service began in community service organizations—chambers of commerce and Rotary Club—which then led to friends and acquaintances asking him to run for office. He served two terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives, then as Commissioner of Administration under reformist Gov. Buddy Roemer.
It was there that he achieved what he deems his biggest accomplishment: Balancing four state budgets. “People don’t realize how close the state came to bankruptcy in those first two or three months,” he says. “We balanced four budgets, got two upgrades from Standard & Poor’s rating house and put good processes in place. We put the state on a course of improvement.”
These days, Stine is focused on his $200 million family business, Stine Lumber Co. The company is opening two more massive stores along the corridor this year—one in Walker; the other, in Broussard. But the graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government remains deeply involved in public life, most recently heading up Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Government & Fiscal Reform Transition Advisory Council in the search for a new commissioner of administration. He maintains a leadership role, too, along the corridor, both as entrepreneur and public servant. “I think the 10/12 corridor is the most robust and fastest-growing portion of the state,” he says. “As it goes, so goes Louisiana.”
Matt Stuller was just 19 and fresh out of Our Lady of Fatima High School in Lafayette when he developed his first wholesale jewelry product line and took it on the road in his Nissan 240Z. When his territory expanded into two other states, he bought a Winnebago.
Today, Stuller Inc. is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of jewelry products, serving 40,000 jewelers from the corridor. The firm has offices in Israel, Thailand and India.
The jewelry magnate is clearly committed to his home state. Not only has he waved off wooing from rival states and expanded his firm’s Lafayette headquarters numerous times, but he also commands a leadership role. Along with Lafayette attorney Clay Allen and C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates CEO Bill Fenstermaker, Stuller started the statewide business-driven government reform initiative, Blueprint Louisiana and was its first chairman. After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, he headed up economic development and workforce training initiatives for the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
David Voelker is rebuilding post-hurricane Louisiana in two ways. As founder and CEO of Frantzen, Voelker and Conway Investments in New Orleans, he provides growth capitol and strategic support to companies throughout the corridor. But Voelker is also chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and as such has been instrumental in hurricane recovery and rebuilding efforts from Lake Charles to the Northshore and New Orleans.
Says LRA spokeswoman Catherine Heitman: “David’s leadership and direct ?involvement on Capitol Hill and throughout the country has helped raise billions in private and federal dollars to rebuild South Louisiana after four storms in a way that is safer, stronger and smarter.”
REGIONAL POWER BROKERS
25 others recognized for their leadership in five regions.
R. Adam McBride, Director, Port of Lake Charles
Bill Dore, Founder, Global Industries
George Swift, President & CEO, Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance
Gray Stream, President, Stream Companies
Jack Lawton, President, Jack Lawton Inc.
Bill Fenstermaker, CEO, C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates
Charles Boustany, U.S. Congressman
Elaine Abell, Chair, Community Foundation of Acadiana
Mike Michot, Louisiana senator
Richard Zuschlag, President/CEO Acadian Ambulance
John Noland, President, Noland Investments
Lane Grigsby, Founder & chairman, Cajun Constructors
Mike Grimmer, Livingston Parish president
Mike Martin, LSU chancellor
Loren Scott, Economic consultant
Howard Daigle, Attorney
Jan Robert, Executive director, St. Tammany Health Care Alliance
Jimmy Maurin, CEO, Stirling Properties
John Crain, President, Southeastern Louisiana University
Reid Falconer, Architect, St. Tammany Parish councilman
Jay Lapeyre, Chairman, New Orleans Business Council
Jim Amoss, Editor, New Orleans Times-Picayune
Jim Tucker, Speaker, Louisiana House of Representatives
Joel Chaisson, President, Louisiana State Senate
Karen Carter Peterson, Louisiana Representative